Education Opinion

The Power of Written Language

By Hanne Denney — March 12, 2008 2 min read

I’m sorry I haven’t contributed anything worthwhile to the Teacher Blogs recently. All the immediate concerns of special education take up each day, and suddenly a couple of weeks have gone by and I haven’t had time to step back and look at the big picture. I have a little time now, so let me look.

I’m thinking about the power of the written word. What a great thing it is to communicate ideas, information, or images through words.. I worked with students this week on a poetry assignment. The assignment was quite simple, and asked them to create a poem using several literary elements. The students had a choice of topics. One student had trouble starting, and didn’t want to do it. We brainstormed some ideas, and the next day he brought in a rough draft. He asked to stay after school and I helped him type it up and arrange it in poetic form. His illustrations of the poem were perfect, and he created an amazing artifact expressing the emotions of a student entering middle school. It was his story.

The significant part of the story is not that he earned an “A” (which he did) or even that he completed the assignment (he usually does). What is significant is the pride that this boy felt when his poem was “published” - typed and illustrated. I shared his poem with his teacher from last year, and he showed the math teacher, and the substitute teacher, and a friend. His creative work gave him great joy. He wants to do another one. That gives me great joy. Writing is powerful.

I’m taking off for New Orleans tomorrow with my husband. We are, sadly, attending the memorial services for our nephew Nick. Nick Denney was a writer with an interesting life. He enjoyed the adventure of travel - new people, and new places. He was liked by many and loved intensely by some. Nick was handsome, articulate, and had a great voice. He appreciated the natural beauty of our world, and was a fan of blues and jazz and other things that create pleasure and beauty. With all this, it’s hard to understand that Nick was 25 years old when he ended his own life..

Nick read a great deal, and let the words of others inspire him. So now I’m trying to let Nick inspire me. Nick chose poetry and music that held meaning for him, and asked his family and friends to read and share in a celebration of remembrance. That’s why we’re going to New Orleans. To share and remember.

I’ve been asked by Nick’s sister Michelle to read Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18". It is one of the poems I taught for the last three years in English 9, so I am well familiar with its deep imagery and lingering message. “So long as men can breath or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives live to thee”. It’s a poem about the power of the written word. Words create memories that can both wound and heal. Words can be a promise, and an ending. Nick left a lot of writing, both published and private, which his family will explore as time goes by. For Nick, his final written words summarized his life and explained its end. For my student, the written word is a door opening to personal expression. He’s written something that has inspired him to write more.

I wish I could write better. I wish I would write more. Written Language is powerful.

The opinions expressed in In the Middle are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


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